Exhibitions Detail

Homefront WWI & WWII

Learn about the homefront efforts during both World Wars.

While Iowans were fighting on the Western Front during WWI, their families were helping the cause at home. Women gathered to roll bandages for the front lines and gained strength from each other as they worked. The American Red Cross expanded rapidly during WWI, and men and women volunteered for its Home Service units in many Iowa communities. Companies converted from consumer goods to military production, and many expanded to continue to produce their regular product line. Factories operated at full capacity, especially the meat packers and canneries. One-fourth of the profits from a new cannery in Ames came from sales to Camp Dodge, the training site for the 88th Division, near Des Moines. One-half of Rath Packing meat was sent overseas.

With four million troops on active duty during WWII, the military's demand for munitions, food and fiber increased dramatically. The need for employees in the defense industry grew as the traditional workforce was shipped overseas to fight for democracy. Women and minorities stepped forward to fill the empty spots on the assembly lines in factories all over the nation. Iowa's farmers boosted production to meet the country's ever-growing requirements for food and war material. Civilians of all ages conserved vital resources through rationing and "scrap drives," and purchased war bonds to finance the Allied effort.

"I was on the line and the bombs came by me ... and I would run my fingers around the nose cone (of the 500-pound fragmentation bombs) and it was very important that there were no slivers. Everything had to be really smooth because that's where the explosive fit in."
— Theola Jay Chamberlain, Munitions Factory